- 19 June 2017
For the second time, E52 organises the annual Expat Top-10. There are a lot of internationals in Eindhoven who have done a great job for the city, and by this, we put a spotlight on them. This year’s theme of the Top-10 is ‘Sport & Leisure’. Every day we present you an interview with one of the winners. In this interview, you can read about how they ended up in Eindhoven, how they put an effort in the city and how they look at the Eindhoven with their international perspective. Today: Stefan Pfundtner.
Born in 1981
From Vienna, Austria
In Eindhoven since 2004
#1 on bucket list: “be active in Eindhoven’s politics… or open up a food truck”
A foodie, he calls himself. Stefan Pfundtner helped setting up the community garden at High Tech Campus and he’s active for several initiatives and events in his neighbourhood. Wether it’s about a pizza oven, a kitchen garden or a cooking workshop. It’s most of the time about food, sustainability and socialising.
“I stayed for nine months, nine became twelve and so on”
With a diploma from a Spanish language course, Pfundtner chose to go to the Netherlands. “In Vienna I studied electronics. One of my professors had connections with Eindhoven. Actually I wanted to go to Spain but I went to the Netherlands. But now I have a Spanish wife, haha.” Pfundtner had the idea to stay for just nine months. “I worked in sales for a Taiwanese company, just because I liked it. In 2006 I started to work for Philips where I do research.” Now he and his wife bought a house in the Irisbuurt in Eindhoven, a perfect place for the children, Pfundtner says, and the family is not planning on going anywhere.
“I started the garden from the perspective of sustainability but there is also a big social aspect”
In 2012 Pfundtner set up the community garden at High Tech Campus together with two friends. “I have always been very active in society. In Austria I was a voluntary fireman for example. At the campus we wanted to grow vegetables. The garden is not so active anymore but that’s not bad. Now it’s a fun place to be and people who work here can take a walk around the campus and take a snack from the garden.” Sustainability is often connected to Pfundtner’s ideas. “We tried to do a project with the waste of restaurants from the campus. So we could compost it in the garden. It’s still a dream of mine but it’s very difficult because the kitchens already have their own way of companies who pick up their waste.”
Three years later Pfundtner started a community garden in his own neighbourhood as well. “It works fantastic! We also planted fruit trees at our community centre. The Irisbuurt is a very active community. Actually it’s a role model for neighbourhoods. For me it’s also about the social aspects. It makes that I can mean something for my neighbours.” Pfundtner feels like he started to integrate in the Irisbuurt. “These kinds of activities make integration easier. Expats are important because they bring a different perspective and culture with them. But there’s sometimes a gap because of language and communication; with these activities we can make the gap smaller.”
“Expats are important and with activities we can make it easier for them to integrate”
“I want that Eindhoven innovates its society like it innovates tech”
“Eindhoven really does a good job, it’s ahead of its time. But it’s also important that internationals and expats learn Dutch quicker and easier than they do now. In that perspective it’s an advantage and a problem that all Dutch people speak English so well. We can do our groceries, talk with colleagues, all in English. But with speaking Dutch there’s an extra value.” For Pfundtner it’s not only a fact of adapting, so that internationals can feel more at home. “We don’t need to organise activities only for expats and we don’t need to change things because internationals are used to something different.”
The Netherlands and Eindhoven itself have a lot of good qualities and we should use them. “You have a very good cycling culture. It’s easy, healthy and very convenient. Eindhoven’s infrastructure is built on cycling. A lot of my colleagues live nearby but still they go to work by car. Many expats don’t even have a bicycle. I have a cargo bike myself. It comes out handy with the kids.” The local government could help more in this, Pfundtner thinks. “There are so many bikes. Besides that, sport is very much in the Dutch culture, if we could include foreigners more in that, it helps with integrating.”
Pfundtner himself is already well integrated. “I don’t know if there are a lot of cultural differences because I don’t feel like an expat anymore. I do like the polder model that everybody has an opinion and every opinion counts. Besides that I’m a real foodie, so of course the food is different. I still eat warm during lunch, I’m so happy with the food stands at the High Tech Campus. But I do eat early well… half past six is still late for Dutch people, I believe.”